For all of us, those of faith and those of no faith, the last year has been like nothing we’ve experienced before. We have had churches closed for a time. I have recorded services and posted them on to a YouTube channel we’ve generated for ourselves. People, young and old, have worshipped from home; you’ve invited your church ministers into your living space each week as you’ve gathered around the TV, laptop computer, or mobile phone.
So when we finally emerged from our months of pandemic quarantine in lockdown 1, it was like breaking free as a butterfly does from a chrysalis. We were breaking free from the prison of isolation to join a living, breathing world again, all be it one different from a few months earlier. And then lockdown 3, the same restrictions; here we go again!
There’s a story of a Christian family playing in a public park after lockdown 1. As they are playing catch with a ball the Mum thinks that she hears singing and then hears the name “Jesus” floating on the air. Stopping to look around she sees a group of people on a nearby hill, and one of them has a guitar in hand. She had heard correctly. Without hesitation she sets off, at a fair lick that surprised even her, to get to the top of the hill!
At the sound of His name, this Mum ran and with a sheepish look on her face she stood among the startled strangers trying to justify her intrusion into their safe space! No one said anything for a moment, the music and singing stopped and then the Mum blurted out, “I heard the Name of ‘Jesus’ and just came running.” She says that months of being out of church had had a profound impact on her; at the name of Jesus she ran toward the source of the name! She was desperate for the company of other believers, for the love she knew His Name could bring. In fact, she was so desperate for restoration – to be awakened back to life – that her heart reacted in a way that surprised her, especially for the rest of her family as they hastily gathered up their belongings to chase after her, not knowing where she was going and what she was trying to achieve.
By the way, she’d run into a worship group recording songs for their on-line service!
Have you ever needed God like that Mum? Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by your circumstances that, given the chance, you’d throw off everything else and just run, in surrender to Him?
In the wake of Christ’s crucifixion, we can guess the apostles were swept over by a range of emotions: confusion; discouragement; isolation; pain, grief, and loss. I would have imagined there was also despair that what they’d thought was supposed to happen . . . didn’t. The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly what the apostles’ hearts were experiencing at the time, but it does paint a portrait of their response when Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women returned with a report that Jesus was not in the tomb. No – He had risen from the grave!
The apostles thought these were idle tales. That is, except for one man. The Gospel of Luke tells us:
“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” (Luke 24:12).
Can you for a moment allow yourself to get caught up in the sheer breathless beauty of that moment – Peter running to the tomb? What was Peter thinking as he ran to the tomb? Was his heartbeat drowning out the sound of his sandals pounding on the dirt road beneath his feet? What did he feel as he approached the stone? What did he feel seeing it rolled away? What did he feel when he too found the tomb empty? Did he cry, did he cradle the strips of linen to his chest in confusion?
As Peter wondered to himself what was going on, I think it was a step back toward redemption for him. He probably couldn’t see it for himself, but remember, he had denied knowing Christ on the night of His arrest, despite hotly denying he would do any such thing when Jesus told him he would do it! I think that Peter, standing in the tomb, a grave, was brought one step closer back to life. Another step was when Jesus appeared to him later in the day. I believe that this is all part of the truth of the Good News of Easter…we are brought back to life, and in of all places, a grave, one step at a time! So, out of this specific grave, Jesus’ grave, comes God’s amazing gift of redemption.
The Scriptures back this up….
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
We may well have felt overwhelmed by the circumstances of the last year. But I don’t think that is a bad thing. In fact, from my personal experience, the moment we’re most overwhelmed is the perfect moment to come alive again and embrace all God can do to bring life back to the dead places in our hearts.
So don’t wait for the circumstances to change around you. If you did this, you could have a long wait! Don’t waste your time waiting for them to change; instead run to the promises of God. There is a lot of running to and fro from the grave, as well as to and fro from Emmaus to Jerusalem, on the first Easter Day. We don’t have a tomb to run to, but Easter is still about running to the life that’s waiting for you in His Word. Easter is about running to prayer and worship and to the community of Jesus-followers in your life.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, get up and run toward Jesus; redemption is waiting for you when you do. But don’t do this just when you’re feeling overwhelmed, no, run toward to Jesus from the moment you wake up first thing in the morning to the close of day. God is looking for marathon runners, not sprinters!
Christ is risen…
He is risen indeed!
Time to think
This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God. The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.
Read again the two passages from Scripture we had today: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, and Luke 24:1-12. Let them speak to you afresh in light of Jesus’ resurrection. As God speaks to you why not write down (in your journal) what you sense God is saying to you?
The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.
Can I ask you to consider these questions found in this week’s sermon:
- Have you ever needed God like that Mum?
- Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by your circumstances that, given the chance, you’d throw off everything else and just run in surrender to Him?
- What was Peter thinking as he ran to the tomb? Was his heartbeat drowning out the sound of his sandals pounding on the dirt road beneath his feet?
- What did he feel as he approached the stone?
- What did he feel seeing it rolled away?
- What did he feel when he too found the tomb empty? Did he cry, did he cradle the strips of linen to his chest in confusion?
Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond this question.
As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.
Help us every day to come with anticipation into your presence. As we take this step we ask you to roll away the stone from the tombs of our hearts, O God that we may share in the fullness of the resurrection life that your Son Jesus offers to all who put their faith and trust in Him and who call on Him as their Lord and Saviour.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!